Yesterday I pulled out an old drawing pad, one that I started in 1985, to make some plans for the work I am inventing now. I make diagrams which sometimes amount to drawings, often in color, which are meant to determine the format of the work I need to clarify. These are like mini-maps. Not sketches. I don’t like the word; it sounds like something indecisive. I want clarity.
I begrudge the losses incurred as aging progresses. The memory, the physical energy, and the rest of it. But I saw clearly demonstrated as I browsed through the drawings that in the twenty-seven year trajectory, plainly visible there, I had come a long way towards strengthening the vision and at the same time being constant. How nice! A gain! I do what I do better now. Well, I did know that. My painting is now far closer to the vision. It only required developing the sureness and the abilities to make it visible. Okay, wait a minute. I’m not there yet. When I look around my studio at the work waiting to be resolved I think: “Another twenty years might do it”.
I Googled losses and gains of aging and learned a bit more. I’ll put some of it here to encourage my younger readers to move fearlessly onward and to, I hope, comfort the older ones for the losses. Here’s a direct quote: “at any given point in the life span, some abilities are increasing, and others are decreasing. Moreover, the life-span perspective does not posit a specific goal for development, other than successful adaptation to the environment in which a person lives.”So what else is new? Here’s one I didn’t much like: “Fluid intelligence, or problem solving skill, declines in old age.” So we are losing that when we really need it. “Crystallized intelligence, which includes knowledge that has been acquired, such as vocabulary and general information, continues to improve across the life span.” I can vouch for that one. I surprise myself with the words at my disposal as I write. On the other hand, I am often at a loss for the names of things as I speak. Go figure. And I used to be a good speller. Word processor to the rescue.
So it is not a uniformly negative loss-ridden time of life. Personally, I notice a gain in emotional stability and a sureness in the decisions I make that are pleasant improvements. And I am a better painter and much aware of how I continue to learn. Very grateful for that.
Still, while there might be a gain or two, golden it is not. From Mark Twain: Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.
The images above are pages from my drawing pad done twenty-one years ago.